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Showing posts from October, 2017

Nothing But the Night (1973)

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As Hammer was beginning to wind down, the budgets becoming less and less and the movies often being sad shadows of what they were in their heyday, Christopher Lee decided to use his name and his success to start producing his own movies.  Charlemagne Pictures Ltd. would of course have the benefit of having Lee as an actor, and it also had Peter Cushing in its first movie as well.  It was an easy transition for Hammer fans.

In the end, despite planning a trilogy of movies based on John Blackburn novels, Nothing But the Night was the only film produced by Charlemagne Films.  It seemed that working in film production took so much time that he found himself turning down acting roles, something that he rarely did even if he did constantly complain about the roles he was given.

A number of trustees for the Van Traylen Orphanage keep turning up dead, including founder Helen Van Traylen (Beatrice Kane).  All the killings have the appearance of possible homicide, but they also seem to fit the…

The Penalty (1920)

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Normally when referencing Lon Chaney we are talking about Junior, who had a much longer career than his father did.  It was the original Lon Chaney, however, that pioneered makeup effects and techniques in film.  It didn't hurt that he was quite an actor.

Lon Chaney died in 1930, on the cusp of relaying his fame into talking films.  As makeup techniques advanced it would have been interesting to see what he would have done, far beyond the Universal monster canon that was popular at the time.  In fact, Lon Chaney films were treated as events, largely to see what he would do next.  One of the earliest in this line was The Penalty.

The up and coming Dr. Ferris (Charles Clary) is treating a child who has been run over by a wagon.  Thinking it is the right thing to do, he amputates the child's legs, but ignores the contusion on the back of his head as that is beyond his skill.  Dr. Ferris's father double checks everything and realizes that the legs did not need to be amputated…

Evil Dead II (1987)

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I always loved horror and science fiction films.  I did watch some cartoons, but I remember growing out of them earlier than most kids.  Scooby Doo was fine, but Godzilla is what I really looked forward to on a Saturday morning.  I was aware more of the stars of the films like most people, which meant when it came to Star Wars I cared more about Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill than I did about George Lucas. 

I did not see Evil Dead II when it first came out.  I read about it from the guy who first started getting me into b-movies: Joe Bob Briggs.  As can be expected he loved it, but what really piqued my interest was seeing scenes from it on a Siskel and Ebert special going over their guilty pleasures.  Happily, 1988 or 1989 was one of those years my parents could actually afford cable, so I finally got to see it.  Things changed forever.

I will get to Bruce Campbell's performance, but the fact is Evil Dead II shows what a truly talented director can do with a film when he has comp…

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

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Everything has an origin story, and the origin of the horror film largely lies with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  Yes, The Golem did come out the same year, and there were other movies that had suspense plots, and technically there is nothing supernatural that happens in Caligari.  Still, many of the elements one expects are here.

It is also no surprise that this came from Germany.  While Hollywood and Great Britain began releasing more suspense films throughout the 1920s, it was from the Weimar Republic that we got a number of the most revolutionary bits of cinema.  While Sergei Eisenstein may get accolades for editing, camera movement and a number of other innovations, and D. W. Griffith actually brought us the feature film, thematically Germany gave us the seeds of many of our popular genres. 

Francis (Friedrich Feher) sits on a park bench with another man, discussing that there are spirits all about.  A woman (Lil Dagover) walks by in a ghost-like fashion, and Francis imparts tha…

Night Train to Terror (1985)

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Poor God, and poor Satan.  Maybe it was God's plan all along to get back at the devil by sticking him in a car just a little bit down a train from a horrible '80s band and a bunch of failed applicants for the Solid Gold dancers.  Or, just maybe, stumbling upon this movie and getting through to the end is a strange form of penance in itself. 

Night Train to Terror, from what I gather, is famous largely for how horrible it is.  Nominally an anthology film, it is basically three (two released, one unreleased until 1992) chewed up and regurgitated into nonsensical form.  It's the very incoherence of the movie, combined with a liberal dose of decent practical effects, that draws people to it.  It is, almost literally, watching a train wreck.

As a train barrels through the night and a bunch of people party to horribly to one of the worst bands ever to perform on Earth or elsewhere, God (Ferdy Mayne) and Satan (Tony Giorgio) sit at the back waiting for the train to crash while th…

The Pack (1977)

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Joe Don Baker is a name that brings up many, many memories of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000.  So many of his movies made it on there, since so many fell into public domain at one point or another.  He isn't a horrible actor by any means, but most of the roles he took after Walking Tall were not ones that lead to a long and fruitful career.

The Pack was one of those movies, now largely forgotten in the whole slew of "animals attack" films inspired by JawsThat's a shame because, while not a great movie by any stretch, it is better than many of the more well-known films that followed the same formula.

Jerry (Baker) is a marine biologist stationed on remote Seal Island.  The island largely consists of a small village, a few permanent residents and a number of vacation homes rented out by tourists.  The tourists have had an unfortunate habit of adopting dogs from the pound and, once they have to return to the city, leaving them abandoned on the island.  With li…

Black Sabbath (1963)

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Mario Bava and American International pretty much worked for the few movies he did for them in the 1960s.  His gothic horror films were pretty much in line with the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations Roger Corman was doing for them, only Bava had access to real European castles.  He also went quite wild when he began to film in color. 

It also helps that one of the legends of horror, Boris Karloff, was signed to American International at the time.  In his mid '70s when Black Sabbath was filmed, he none-the-less was still both a striking presence in one of the segments, as well as a delightfully ghoulish host for the proceedings. 

We begin with Karloff's floating face on a black background welcoming us to the proceedings, and he quickly introduces us to the first tale - "A Drop of Water", based on a tale by Ivan (not Anton) Chekhov.  Helen (Jacqueline Pierreux) is a nurse tasked with preparing the body of deceased medium for burial.  The body has been lying in state for a n…

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

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Frankensteinsuddenly changed Boris Karloff's acting career quite late in his life.  Still, he only played the role that made him famous three times.  His large stature, sunken eyes and amazing way of chewing scenery often made him much more suited for the guy creating monsters rather than the monster himself.  Even his other famous monster role, The Mummy, saw him largely in a major acting role.

Thus we find Karloff doing a series of films for Columbia for b-movie director Nick Grinde, each featuring him in a mad scientist role.  The first of these was The Man They Could Not Hang

Dr. Henry Savaard (Karloff) is about to experiment with a young medical student (Stanley Brown).  He has developed an artificial heart that can be used to restore circulation after the body dies, thus allowing doctors to perform major surgery while the body is technically dead.  Savaard and his assistant Lang (Byron Foulger) use a combination of gasses to end the man's life, and then go about bringi…

One Hour Photo (2002)

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The foundation of humor is always tragedy.  That is why I am always surprised when critics stumble over themselves to praise a great dramatic performance by someone known for their comedic work.  Of course they can play it straight.  Depending on how your life is, however, why would you make a career of playing it straight when you have done that all your life to little or no reward?

For a movie like One Hour Photo, it does help that your lead actor, though a comedian, is also known to be a bit unpredictable in their own field.  Younger generations know Robin Williams from the movies he made, while I remember him as the alien Mork and for comedy routines that, while hilarious, often sounded like a homeless man screaming at you.  If it's funny, you can't help but laugh, but then feel a bit bad about the fact of who it is you are laughing at - especially since Williams was never shy about admitting his problems to the world.

I do think, for general audiences, that when Williams…

The Quiet Ones (2014)

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Hammer Films has been trying to play on their past reputation and become relevant again in the horror genre.  Sure, Hammer did more than horror in its heyday, but that's what they're known for, so you can't really blame them. They even had a bit of success with The Woman in Black

Still, with Universal rebooting its entire monster franchise for the monster age, it leaves no room for Hammer to do what it was best at: reinterpreting those monsters themselves.  And, although they have a huge range of British stage and film actors to choose from, they have yet to find a modern day Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, nor do they have any directors like Terence Fisher to tap.

Unless they have more successes going forward, it leaves them producing backwater copies of popular films like The Conjuring, which is essentially what The Quiet Ones is.

It is 1974, and Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) is trying to find a cure for mental illness.  The subject of his experiment is a…

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

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Today the masked slasher has become a cliche.  Halloween perhaps did it best, while Jason Voorhees managed to carve his way to fame with a hockey mask.  While The Abominable Dr. Phibes is probably the origin point for the genre, Alice, Sweet Alice is certainly responsible in its own way for what it became.

12-year-old Alice Spages (Paula E. Sheppard) is jealous of her younger sister Karen (Brooke Shields), who gets all the attention of her mother Catherine (Linda Miller).  With their father out of the picture, Catherine is forced to raise the two girls on her own, and Alice becomes more and more upset with the attention lavished on Karen, particularly by Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) and the priests' caretaker, Mrs. Tredoni (Mildred Clinton).

It also seems that no one else likes Alice either.  Father Tom will not give her communion, her aunt Annie (Jane Lowry) thinks that she is evil and Mr. Alphonso (Alphonso DeNoble), their perverted landlord, thinks he can use everyone's d…

The Witch (2015)

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It was a year or two ago that I was reading an article that mentioned The Witch, The Babadookand a number of other modern horror films, largely exploring if these films were actually horror.  While many people have no problem with a movie like Don't Breatheor Hostel being considered horror films, despite the lack of anything remotely supernatural happening, there has been a growing argument that films that may, or may not, play a bait and switch with their monster are not to be included.

I call goat droppings here.

Horror is a state of mind.  I defy someone to tell me they would be less scared running from a masked, immortal killer than they would be stuck in a confined, locked space with a crazed meth-head with a knife.  I would also say that it would help looking back on your childhood.  You knew deep down many things you feared in the darkness were not real, yet just the possibility of it being real was frightening enough. 

Scared is scared, and there was a time - a very short…

El retorno de Walpurgis (1973)

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This is the seventh of Paul Naschy's films featuring Count Waldemar Daninsky, a Polish noble who is afflicted with a curse that makes him turn into a wolf man every full moon.  Rather than running as a straight series, each movie is a standalone picture, often with completely different time periods and origin stories.  Though this may seem like a sequel to La noche de Walpurgisand share a few off-hand plot points, the two have nothing to do with each other other than the main character's name.

For those who are unaware, Paul Naschy was often referred to as the "Spanish Lon Chaney".  I never know exactly which Lon Chaney they are referring to, but I think he spans both, since Junior made Larry Talbot and the Wolf Man his most famous character, while Senior was a genius at early film makeup.

Either way, his werewolf movies are his most famous outside of Spain, and he still remains largely an undiscovered talent - even though he should be up there with Dario Argento, e…

La noche de Walpurgis (1971)

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I just need to mention that it was a major Paul Naschy fan that got me into the October Horror Movie Challenge, as well as (in a roundabout way, not directly) ended up with me doing this review blog.  I'm a big more willing to review mainstream films as well as the obscure exploitation and horror films, but I never meant to imitate his blog anyway.  Still, I'm surprised that it has taken me this long to review one of Naschy's werewolf movies.

Paul Naschy was the pseudonym for Jacinto Molina, a Spanish actor and director who not only did horror films but a number of different genre and mainstream movies as well.  He was extremely popular in his home country, but is still underappreciated elsewhere.  This is in some ways a good thing as his movies don't end up getting overplayed around Halloween.  The problem is, because of the way they were distributed, sometimes there will be a dozen titles for the same film, and the way it is edited will have a major effect on one…

The Monster Squad (1987)

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There are two teams when it comes to 1980s adventure films starring a bunch of kids going up against frightening, and somewhat overwhelming, odds: The Gooniesand The Monster Squad.  Both films feature a group of outcasts going on an adventure (of course they both have a fat kid as well), and the situations the children are in are not of the type where they just fear grounding.

Keep in mind The Monster Squad never got the respect that The Goonies did, nor did it have Steven Spielberg behind it.  It did get a VHS release, but only one, and it got lost in the shuffle.  I know I saw it back in the 1980s when it got played on TV, but that was about it.  It also didn't get that good of reviews, but I still remembered liking it.

While I am firmly in camp Goonies when it comes to the two movies, it is nice that The Monster Squad has gathered the cult following that it has.  It is both a great example of a type of movie (save for Itand Stranger Things, one of which was written in the same…